miscellaneous musings

End of the year tale: how I write HoneyBeeSuite

One year ago, on Christmas Day 2009, I sat at the dining room table with my daughter and two computers trying to figure out how to set up a blog. How does a host server work? What is WordPress? What is a plugin? How do I make all the software work together? It was sort of overwhelming, but I never gave a thought to what I would actually write.

My daughter was concerned, however. She wanted to know why on earth I would write about beekeeping. Her words were something like, “Why do you want to do that? You write ten posts and you’re done. What will you do after that?” Funny.

Once I had the site set up I just started writing without a plan. As it turns out, my posts fell into several distinct types. Each of the types attracts different kinds and numbers of readers.

  • The “what happened in the apiary today” type of story generates the most comments. These stories are fairly popular for a few days and then sort of fizzle away.
  • The “how to” posts don’t generate a lot of hits right away, but they get the most hits over the long run. This makes sense, I guess, since most people don’t read a how-to article until they have to do something.
  • Scientifically-based articles about other pollinators, pollinator plants, and environmental issues generate more interest than I would expect. If the subject is complex, I try to distill it into something that is easy to understand. My science background helps with this.
  • Rants that I write when I’m upset about something are therapeutic for me, but don’t generate much interest in anyone else. It shows, I think, that it’s better to be cerebral (see above) than emotional when trying to convey an idea.
  • I like to try humor once in a while, but it is hard to do—what is funny to one person isn’t necessarily funny to another. And there is another issue: many, many of my readers are using translation software. Puns and idiomatic expressions—as well as other types of humor—do not translate well, if at all. The translation issue also compels me to strive for standard English; my reference book of choice is Garner’s Modern American Usage. It’s always on my desk.

About nine months into the year I started the Monday Morning Myth and Wednesday Word File. I think the myths have died, mostly because I thought there were dozens of them, but I can never think of them when I go to write.

The Word File I love for two reasons. First, I have a love affair with words and always have. More importantly, I believe that in order to understand any subject, you first have to know the vocabulary, the lingo, the jargon. Once you know the meaning of all the words—whether it be nuclear physics or how to bake a cake—the concepts become much easier. So, unlike the myths, the Word File is here to stay.

The most common question I get about the blog itself is, “Where do you get your ideas?” Only occasionally do I feel empty-headed at the keyboard, and it’s usually for some external reason—not from a lack of ideas. Ideas come from things that happen to me, articles and books I’ve read, questions people ask me, and things I see out in the field. I keep a notebook of ideas and, believe me, the ideas accumulate much faster than the actual posts. The real time-consuming part is that I do a fair amount of research before I write since I have no intention of leading anyone astray.

So that’s it: the tail of the tale. I wish all my readers a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year. And thank you all so, so much for reading and for caring about the bees.




  • I like the idea of the word file a lot. Sometimes when I do research for writing I go browse writing looking specifically for “good words” about bees or honey. It’s helpful as a way of generating ideas, and it’s helped me slip away from writing as if I was doing technical or email-oriented writing.

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